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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Russian Language: Music

Popular Musical Artists

Peter Nalitch and Friends (Музыкальный коллектив Петра Налича) represented Russia in the 2010 Eurovision; the group has a very folksy and refreshing sound, taking stylistic inspiration from many different regions. His albums, "The Joy of simple melodies," as well as "Jolly Baburi," are both online, for you to listen to, or download.

The music website Far From Moscow, promotes, and is constantly updating their website with music from all over Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, as well as the Baltic nations Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. They include articles about the feature artists, which you can explore by region or by genre. They also provide downloadable songs and links to related sites and musical groups.

Russian Radio Stations

SurfMusic is great if you are looking for Russian radio stations this is a great portal to stations available throughout the country. Surfmusic.de also has links to tv news stations around the world.

Russian Composers

Igor Stravinsky, Petr Tchaikovsky, Mikhail Glinka, Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich... these are names familiar to all classical music afficionados. Here is some more information on great Russian composers.

Eurovision

Russia's participation in the Eurovision competition past 18 years has been quite successful.  The competing artists are listed below, including some links to the songs performed in the contest.

2019: Sergey Lazarev

2018: Julia Samoylova

2016: Surgey Lazarev

2015: Polina Gagarina

2014: Tolmachevy Sisters

2013: Dina Garipova

2012: Buranovskiye Babushki

2011: Alexei Vorobiov

2010: Peter Nalitch & Friends

2009: Anastasia Prikhodko

2008: Dima Bilan (won 1st place)

2007: Serebro

2006: Dima Bilan

2005: Natalya Podolskaya

2004: Julia Savicheva

2003: t.A.T.u.

2002: Prime minister

2001: Mumiy troll

2000: Alsou

1997: Alla Pugachova

1995: Philipp Kirkorov

1994: Youddiph

Classical Music

Russia has a long and rich tradition in classical music.  Nothing exemplifies that tradition better than the Russian National Orchestra.  The orchestra was established in 1990 and has an international reputation as one of the finest orchestras in the world.  It has been called "a living symbol of all the best in Russian art".  The orchestra has performed in the Vatican and Israel.  This privately funded institution was the first non-governmental orchestra to receive funding by the state.

If you are interested in more information on them, or would like to hear some of their performances their website has video and a great deal more information.

Russian Rock

Russian rock was shaped within the confines of the multiethnic Soviet Union. Non-Russian republics, such as the Westernized Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the republics of the Caucasus region, particularly Georgia and Armenia, became breeding grounds for rock music. Activities that were absolutely prohibited in Russia, and especially in Moscow and Leningrad, were permissible in the republics due to their distance from the center of power. Rock festivals and rock bands flourished in these republics, creating an atmosphere in which Russian rock musicians could develop their craft.

Prior to the death of Stalin, Soviet youth did not have music of its own, and did not have pop culture or fashion fads. The first Soviet youth fad began in 1953 when stiliagi (the ones with the style) appeared in Moscow, dressed like 1950s Western zoot-suiters. Although this fad mostly involved dressing in a contemporary Western style, stiliagi created a milieu hungry for its own new music. US jazz became the first music of choice. In the early 1950s, fashionable Moscow girls and boys went to dance halls and skating rinks and heard the tunes of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and, above all, Glenn Miller. Even though stiliagi were often ridiculed in the Soviet press and harassed in the street by orthodox minded citizens, the movement spread across the Soviet Empire, became more and more sophisticated and produced its own musical stars such as saxophone player Alexei Kozlov and band leader Latsi Olakh.

A further break in the isolation of Soviet youth from the West occurred at the Seventh International Festival of Youth and Students that took place in Moscow in the summer of 1957. Its purpose was to show the international youth and students who gathered in Moscow the successes, achievements and superiority of the Soviet system, and to instill in these foreigners a desire to struggle against capitalism and imperialism in their own countries. However, there was an unexpected side effect: among the foreigners flooding Moscow streets there were jazz musicians, beatnik poets and modernist artists, all dressed in the latest fashions and dancing to the latest hits that they had brought along. After this unexpected breath of fresh air, there was no going back to the dreariness of the Stalinist cultural and musical landscape. Russian youth was ready for the creation of its own distinct culture.
History

The history of Russian and Soviet rock can be broken into four basic periods:

1.    Cover Versions (approximately 1961-1968)
The first Soviet rock ‘n’ roll band, the Revengers, started to play in Riga, the capital of Latvia, in 1961. They used electric guitars from Czechoslovakia, and a homemade bass with piano wires used for strings. Like all subsequent first-generation Soviet rock bands, they performed covers of rock ‘n’ roll standards. At school dances, the Revengers played music by Elvis Presley, Bill Haley and Little Richard, and they sang in bastardized English.

The first Russian to perform rock ‘n’ roll was singer and composer Alexander Gradsky, with whose name the history of the first period is closely connected. In 1963, at the age of 13, he sang his first concert at the International Club of Moscow State University, accompanied by a Polish student band called Tarakany (the Roaches).  The first actual Russian band, Brat'ia (Brothers), was formed in Moscow in 1963 and disbanded after playing for less than a year. It was followed by Sokol (Falcon), which existed from 1964 to 1969, basing its act on covers of songs by the Rolling Stones and, later, the Monkees. The third such band was Slaviane (the Slavs), also formed in 1964, which was joined by Alexander Gradsky as its lead singer, performing covers of Beatles' songs.

Simultaneously, bands were established in Leningrad: the first one was the Wanderers (in 1964), followed by Lesnye Brat'ia (Forest Brothers) and Argonavty (the Argonauts). This was a period of the adaptation of Western rock genres and styles.


2.    Search and Struggle (approximately 1968-1980)
An important role in this relative musical stagnation was also played by the kind of Western music that was listened to and that was very popular among the elite cadre of Soviet rock devotees who were shaping the national rock scene. By far the most influential types of Western music at this time were British and European art rock, techno rock and progressive rock. Bands such as Pink Floyd, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Procol Harum, King Crimson, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Yes, Focus and Exception, as well as performers such as Rick Wakeman, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and Roxy Music were extremely popular. To make such music within the confines of an apartment was impossible, though Soviet rock musicians attempted to play deep, overblown, philosophical art rock. The general direction that Soviet rock took at this time can be characterized as following the traditions and attempting to approximate the stylistic features and techniques of Western progressive rock bands. This constituted an international rock trend that remained very influential in the Soviet Union during the 1970s.


3.    Struggle and Victory (approximately 1980-1991)

By 1979, it became apparent that sticking to art and progressive rock traditions had become an artistic dead end for Soviet rock. The arrival of punk rock was initially received by the Soviet rock community without enthusiasm. Soviet rock musicians had no tradition of playing loud, dissonant, ‘dirty’ music not based on attractive melodies. They were still enamored of a ‘clean’ sound, melodic tunes and elaborate arrangements, and striving for a rich musical palette. The liberating power of punk was not evident to them at first.

With a few exceptions, punk rock as such was not picked up in the Soviet Union and Russia. There were very few punk bands. Leningrad punk rocker Svin (Swine) - aka Andrey Panov - and his Sex Pistols-like - though far less energetic - band Avtomaticheskie Udovletvoriteli (Automatic Satisfies) were one of the few. What happened instead was that punk's influence became evident and important not in the kind of music that was played, but in the attitude that rock musicians displayed towards their music, their audiences and life.


4.    Identity Crisis and Self-rediscovery (after 1991)
With the collapse of the Soviet regime came a rather unexpected loss of identity, a personal and creative crisis for many in Russian rock. Rock musicians suddenly lost their role of spiritual leadership, and from being glorious rebels they turned into simple entertainers, subject to the forces of a free market. No longer was it enough to be a professional hero: in the post-perestroika period the requirement was to be a professional musician. Music and musicians were now judged, not upon their social relevance and their ability to scandalize authorities, but upon their craftsmanship, their artistic achievements.

 

Influential Russian Bands

The most important bands to come out from Leningrad, aside from Akvarium, were: Kino, lead by charismatic Viktor Tsoy; Alisa, an aggressive new wave band with tendencies towards heavy metal and a sound with intense drive; Televizor (Television), created in 1984 by keyboard player and vocalist Mikhail Borzykin; and Strannye Igry (Strange Games), one of the most original and creatively daring Leningrad bands of the early 1980s.

Another highly experimental, daring and influential band was Sergei Kurekhin's Poluliarnaia Mekhanika (Popular Mechanics).

Группа Кино (Kino) was formed in 1984, and immediately became a cult band. It was known for its cool new wave sound, detached performance and melancholy lyrics praising youthful bohemianism. Kino came to an end with Tsoy's untimely death in 1990.

ДДТ (DDT) is a famous Rock group formed in 1980, and is active to this day. You can access their albums online through spotify, and 5 of their top albums are also currently available on iTunes. Fronted by Iurii Shevchuk, who also plays guitar and composes most of DDT's songs. DDT was formed originally in the remote city of Ufa, in Bashkir Republic on the edge of Siberia, where it gained its initial reputaton but got into endless trouble with local authorities due to Shevchuk's uncompromising lyrics, which were critical of the social problems that existed during the Soviet period: the Afghan war, and the bureaucracy and hypocrisy of Soviet life. In 1987, in search of more a more liberal and creative climate, DDT moved to Leningrad (St Petersburg), where it has remained very active and very popular, attracting huge audiences with its blend of progressive rock and ‘metal’ sound.

The youtube page for this video of "Posledniuiu Osen' " - "The Last Autumn" has the English translation in the drop-down text below the video, and can be accessed by clicking "show more."

Another song that is easy to understand by Bi-2 is Научи меня быть счастливым / Show me how to be happy 

 

source: Russia’ 2005, in Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World: Locations, Continuum, London, United Kingdom, viewed 19 March 2012, <from http://www.library.illinois.edu/proxy/go.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.credoreference.com/entry/contpmwl/russia>